Despite the political smokescreen, scientists are in no doubt that global heating has contributed to Australia’s fire emergency.
As Australia’s unprecedented bushfire season continues to unfold, competing arguments have been made about the principal causes of the human and environmental tragedy – particularly around the role of climate change.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, has acknowledged that climate change has had an influence on the fires and has defended his government’s climate record.
But Morrison has also said that “job-destroying, economy-destroying, economy-wrecking targets and goals” on climate change “won’t change the fact that there have been bushfires or anything like that in Australia”.
Backbench MP Craig Kelly denied any link between climate change and bushfires in a combative interview on British TV.
Conservative media have concentrated on other factors, such as the amount of hazard reduction burning carried out, or the activities of arsonists – a claim shown to have been inflated and misrepresented.
Bushfire experts say that in normal years hazard reduction is a way to control the behavior of fires, but the changing climate is making it harder to carry out prescribed burns and, according to fire chiefs, it is not a “panacea” for extreme bushfires.
Here is what we know about the long-term influences on the bushfire catastrophe.